First Manchester

First Manchester

Infobox Bus transit
name = First Manchester

logo_size = 150px

image_size =
image_caption = A First Manchester articulated Scania bus
company_slogan =
parent = FirstGroup plc
founded = 1996, formerly GM Buses North
headquarters = Wallshaw Street, Oldham
locale = North West England
service_area = Greater Manchester (some services overlap into other counties)
service_type = Bus
hubs = Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Bury, Bolton, Wigan, Salford, Tameside, Stockport, Kirklees, Warrington, St Helens
stations =
lounge =
fleet =
ridership =
fuel_type =
operator = FirstGroup
ceo =
website = []

First Manchester is one of the bus companies serving Greater Manchester, a metropolitan county in North West England. It forms part of FirstGroup, a company operating transport services across the British Isles and in North America. The company operates within the area covered by the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive, a public body responsible for helping to co-ordinate public transport services in the Greater Manchester area.


Before bus deregulation in 1986, buses in the Greater Manchester area were publicly funded and went under the name of Greater Manchester Transport. In 1986, with de-regulation, Greater Manchester Transport became known as GM Buses, which were effectively owned by the metropolitan borough and city councils of Greater Manchester, but were at arms' length from the local town halls. During the mid-1990s GM Buses was divided into two compaines: GMN (GM Buses (North)) and GMS (GM South Buses)). British Bus looked set to acquire GM North, but eventually both were bought out by their management and employees. Within a year, however, GM South Buses were bought by the Stagecoach Group and rebranded as Stagecoach Manchester.

When GM Buses North were eventually bought by First the whole GMN fleet was rebranded as First Manchester. This was just a trade name as legal name of the company remained GMBuses North.

After a period of experimentation with the livery, a lighter shade of orange was adopted and all other colours were dropped, leaving a fleet of plain light orange buses.

First Manchester soon ended up managing two other First subsidiaries: First Potteries and its sister First Pennine. That even included many GM Standard Atlanteans making their way to those two fleets.

However, First Manchester became unpopular with both its passengers and the local PTEFact|date=May 2008. Reliability plummeted, buses were often dirty and very few new buses came into the fleet. This partly fuelled the PTEs' calls for re-regulation in their areasFact|date=May 2008.

Eventually the First Pennine and Manchester subsidiaries were merged, adding a number of routes in the Tameside area to First Manchester. A new management team was put in place and First Manchester was relieved of its responsibility for the Potteries subsidiary.

Several years on and many of the old orange fleet have been replaced by new vehicles in White Magenta and Blue livery featured on most other First Bus fleets.


*Bolton depot: Weston Street
*Bury depot: Rochdale Road
*Tameside depot: Rothesay Garage, Broadway, Dukinfield
*Manchester depot: Queens Road, Cheetham
*Oldham depot & HQ: Wallshaw Street
*Wigan depot: Pottery Road
*Ince School Unit depot: Seaman Way
*Kirkby School Unit depot: Newstet Road


First Manchester's fleet consists of around 860 active vehicles. Over half are of Volvo manufacture, 250 of these being B7RLEs with Wright Eclipse bodywork delivered in 2005/2006.

Articulated buses

First Manchester pioneered the use of low-floor articulated buses in the United Kingdom with the delivery in 1998 of the first of fifteen Volvo B10LAs with Wright Fusion bodywork. These were initially used on service 135 between Manchester and Bury.

In 2005, eighteen new Scania OmniCity articulated buses arrived to take over operation of the 135.

Double-deck buses

Double-deckers were once the mainstay of urban bus services in Manchester. They are now becoming popular again, with 36 Wright Eclipse Geminis being delivered in 2007. These are mainly used on services 17, 32 and X34. Two hundred of a similar type have been ordered for delivery in 2008/2009 with the first being used on services 8, 36, 37, 180 and 184.

ingle-deck buses

In addition to the Volvo/Wright Eclipse which form the majority type, other types present in significant numbers include Volvo B10BLE/Wright Renown, Mercedes-Benz Citaro, Dennis Dart SLF, and Mercedes-Benz O405 with Optare Prisma or Wright bodywork.


First Manchester mainly run services in central Manchester and the northern area of Greater Manchester including Oldham, Rochdale, Bury, Bolton, Wigan, Tameside and Salford. However, some services do run outside of these areas. These services are the 20 (Bacup - Manchester), the 22 (Bolton – Stockport) which is shared with Stagecoach, the 53 (Cheetham - Pendleton), 100 (Warrington / Hollins Green - Manchester), the 184 (Huddersfield - Manchester), which is shared with First's Huddersfield depot, and the 388 (Ashton-Hawk Green). First also operate school services in Merseyside, serving the St Helens area.



In the last few years, First has introduced branding known as 'Overground' on bus services which are frequent during the daytime. Based on the London Underground network where each frequent service is given a recognisable colour, each Overground service also has its own colour line. The concept is now a prominent fixture throughout all First bus companies in the UK. The standard frequency of services is 10 minutes. In other areas, some services have Overground frequencies of 15 or 20 minutes.

Although, each route should have its own unique colour, First Manchester has a lot of Overground services, so this has resulted in having two or more lines with the same colour. They are the 17, 506 & 507 and 621 & 628 (Red), 67, 425 and 472 & 474 (Lime Green), 81 and 582 (Claret), 82 & 83 and 540 (Orange, although font colours are different), 123 & 124 and 519 (Indigo), 163 and 575 (Turquoise), 180 & 184 and 524 (Purple) (184 was given purple as the service forms part of the Huddersfield Overground, with services to/from Marsden also branded purple), 348 and 501 (Yellow) and the 409 and 658 (Mauve).

Overground Link

In Spring 2006, First Manchester re-routed its 67 service between Cadishead and Manchester to run direct along Liverpool Road during the day. This was designed to speed up the service running between Eccles and Cadishead. As a result, buses were withdrawn from running via Merlin Road and surrounding areas in Irlam. To help passengers, First introduced OvergroundLink, which is described by First as a feeder service.

The 67L service, which uses a small bus or vehicles with low floor access for wheelchairs and pushchairs, runs a clockwise circular service from the White Lion pub on Liverpool Road, running via Cutnook Lane, Merlin Road, Morillon Road and Silver Street, returning to the White Lion, where the service connects with the 67. The service takes 5 minutes to complete its route and runs Mondays to Saturdays with a frequency of every 10 minutes from 0640 (0800 on Saturdays) until 1900.

This service was the first one introduced by First and still runs today. Other attempts were not so successful. Another 67L service was introduced in July 2006 to serve the Brookhouse estate. The service was designed so that passenger could board or alight the bus at any point along the route in Brookhouse, also known as 'Hail and Ride' before alighting the service at the Unicorn pub in Peel Green to connect with the 67. This service was withdrawn in January 2007. The main reason for the service not succeeding is probably down to the fact that the estate is served by the 10, which is run by First, and the M10, which is run by Arriva. Both services run services from Brookhouse to Manchester without the need to changing buses.

Another OvergroundLink service was introduced in July 2006 and withdrawn in January 2007 was the 98L. This was designed to link up with the 98 service running between Bury and Manchester on Bury New Road at the junction with Butterstile Lane. The 98L would operate around the Carr Clough area using Hail and Ride. Like the 67L Brookhouse service, the 98L was probably withdrawn because another service already links Carr Clough and Manchester, the 93 which runs between Bury and Manchester.

In April 2007, First introduced the 598L, which was introduced when First replaced its 593 daytime service with a new Overground route, the 598. However, while the 593 ran via Castle Hill and Belle Green, the 598 runs direct between Hindley Green and Wigan. Castle Hill was still served by the 540, whose frequency increased from every 30 minutes to every 10 minutes and the 32 was re-routed to serve Castle Hill.

Belle Green is served by the 598L, starting at Ince Bar, running down Manchester Road before serving Belle Green like the 593 did when travelling to Wigan. The service starts at 0700 (0830 on Saturdays) and runs every 10 minutes until 1830. This is an increase on the frequency compared to the old 593 service, which ran every 15 minutes.

Although passengers would have to change services to travel to Wigan or Leigh, they would only need to buy one ticket. This is called a 'Through ticket'. The passenger would board the 598L, state their destination, be it on the 32, 540 or 598 and would be able to use the ticket on the next service. If the passenger just wants to use the 598L, they can pay a 50p fare. This may have been introduced so that potential passengers don't use the new 593 service introduced between Wigan and Belle Green, which is run by South Lancs Travel, running a half-hour service from Wigan Bus Station plus an additional journeys at 0933 (Not Saturdays), 1033, 1133, 1233 and 1333 (Not Saturdays) from King Street West.

In May 2007, First introduced another 67L service in Irlam. Starting at the White Lion, the service runs via Fiddlers Lane, Mond Road, Princes Avenue, Addison Road and Liverpool Road to the White Lion. The service was re-routed at the end of July 2007 to run via Boundary Road instead of Princes Avenue and Addison Road. This route was withdrawn at the end of August 2007. Another 67L route was introduced on the 2nd September 2007 running via Liverpool Road, Vicarage Road, School Lane, Parkston Road, Cutnook Lane and Silver Street.


First Manchester offer several night bus services in Manchester and Wigan every Friday and Saturday night to help people get home from a night out. The routes are mainly the same as the normal routes with some exceptions. The 39 and 629 services were normal daytime services until they were withdrawn. The 600 normally runs from Wigan to Leigh while the night bus runs a circular service to Ashton-in-Makerfield before returning to Wigan via Platt Bridge. The 631 & 632, which normally run circular services from Wigan to Highfield Grange are re-routed to serve Pemberton and Hawkley Hall. The 635, normally runs from Wigan to Shevington Vale, while night bus service runs a circular service to Shevington, Shevington Moor and Standish. The other exception is the 695 service, which is not based on any First route.

The services run every 30 minutes or every hour from midnight to 3am. The fare system on the night bus services are different to the normal fares offered by First, as there is only a flat fare offered. For passengers travelling from Wigan, the price is £2.00 while in Manchester, it is £3.00. A FirstNight ticket is priced at £4.00 for passengers who uses the Nightbus in both directions.

Easter services

First Manchester operate to a different timetable during the Easter weekend with Sunday services used on most services. The following usually apply to First Manchester services during the Easter holidays:
*Good Friday: A Sunday service on all services apart from:
**100 - Will operate to the Public Holidays timetable
**180/184 - An hourly service between Greenfield/Uppermill and Manchester with daytime journeys on service 184 continuing to Huddersfield (based on Saturday service) [ cite web|url=|title=180/184 Good Friday timetable|publisher=First Group|accessdate=2008-03-07] . This is due to buses in Huddersfield running to a Saturday service.
**528/589/590 (Run by First Calderdale & Huddersfield) - Saturday services.
*Easter Saturday - Normal Saturday service.
*Easter Sunday - Normal Sunday service.
*Easter Monday - Sunday service apart from service 100, which runs to Public Holidays timetable.

ummer services

Due to a reduction of traffic on the roads of Greater Manchester during the summer holidays, First Manchester changed some of the timetables on busier services. The period that the summer timetables are introduced coincide with the school summer holidays, starting in mid-July and ending in late-August/early-September. Usually, buses are retimed to run to similar times to the off peak timetable, while some service introduce additional journeys, as buses that would be used for school services are made available.


External links

* [ First in Manchester]
* [ First For Students]

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